About Orange

The orange (specifically, the sweet orange) is the fruit of the citrus Citrus × sinensis, species Citrus × sinensis in the family Rutaceae. The fruit of the Citrus sinensis is called sweet orange to distinguish it from that of the Citrus aurantium, the bitter orange. The orange is a hybrid, possibly between pomelo (Citrus maxima) and mandarin (Citrus reticulata), cultivated since ancient times.

Probably originated in Southeast Asia, oranges were already cultivated in China as far back as 2500 BC. Between the late 15th century and the beginnings of the 16th century, Italian and Portuguese merchants brought orange trees in the Mediterranean area. The Spanish introduced the sweet orange to the American continent in the mid 1500s.

The origin of the term orange is presumably the Sanskrit word for “orange tree” (नारङगम्, nāraṅga), whose form has changed over time, after passing through numerous intermediate languages. Today, the fruit is known as “Chinese apple” in several languages. Some examples are Dutch sinaasappel (literally, “China’s apple”) and appelsien, or Low German Apfelsine. In English, however, Chinese apple usually refers to the pomegranate.

Orange trees are widely grown in tropical and subtropical climates for its sweet fruit, which can be eaten fresh or processed to obtain juice, and for its fragrant peel. They have been the mostcultivated tree fruit in the world since 1987, and sweet oranges account for approximately 70% of the citrus production. In 2010, 68.3 million tonnes of oranges were grown worldwide, particularly in Brazil and in the US states of California and Florida.

All citrus trees belong to the single genus Citrus and remain almost entirely interfertile. This means that there is only one superspecies that includes grapefruits, lemons, limes, oranges and various other types and hybrids. As the interfertility of oranges and other citrus has produced numerous hybrids, bud unions and cultivars, their taxonomy is fairly controversial, confusing or inconsistent. The fruit of any citrus tree is considered a hesperidium (a kind of modified berry) because it has numerous seeds, is fleshy and soft, derives from a single ovary and is covered by a rind originated by a rugged thickening of the ovary wall.

Different names have been given to the many varieties of the genus. Orange applies primarily to the sweet orange – Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck. The orange tree is an evergreen, flowering tree, with an average height of 9 to 10 metres (30 to 33 ft), although some very old specimens can reach 15 metres (49 ft).[15] Its oval leaves, alternately arranged, are 4 to 10 centimetres (1.6 to 3.9 in) long and have crenulate margins. Although the sweet orange presents different sizes and shapes varying from spherical to oblong, it generally has ten segments (carpels) inside, contains up to six seeds (or pips) and a porous white tissue – called pith or, more properly, mesocarp or albedo – lines its rind. When unripe, the fruit is green. The grainy irregular rind of the ripe fruit can range from bright orange to yellow-orange, but frequently retains green patches or, under warm climate conditions, remains entirely green. Like all other citrus fuits, the sweet orange is non-climacteric. The Citrus sinensis is subdivided into four classes with distinct characteristics: common oranges, blood or pigmented oranges, navel oranges and acidless oranges.

There are not reports on sweet oranges occurring in the wild. In general, it is believed that sweet orange trees have originated in Southeast Asia, northeastern India or southern China and that they were first cultivated in China around 2500 BC.

In Europe, citrus fuits – among them the bitter orange, introduced to Italy by the crusaders in the 11th century – were grown widely in the south for medicinal purposes, but the sweet orange was unknown until the late 15th century or the beginnings of the 16th century, when Italian and Portuguese merchants brought orange trees in the Mediterranean area. Shortly afterwards, the sweet orange was quickly adopted as an edible fruit. It was also considered a luxury good and wealthy people grew oranges in private conservatories, called orangeries. By 1646, the sweet orange was well known throughout Europe.

Spanish explorers introduced the sweet orange into the American continent. On his second voyage in 1493, Christopher Columbus took seeds of oranges, lemons and citrons to Haiti and the Caribbean. Subsequent expeditions in the mid 1500s brought sweet oranges to South America and Mexico, and to Florida in 1565, when Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founded St Augustine. Spanish missionaries brought orange trees to Arizona between 1707 and 1710, while the Franciscans did the same in San Diego, California, in 1769. An orchard was planted at the San Gabriel Mission around 1804 and a commercial orchard was established in 1841 near present-day Los Angeles. In Louisiana, oranges were probably introduced by French explorers.

Archibald Menzies, the botanist and naturalist on the Vancouver Expedition, collected orange seeds in South Africa, raised the seedlings on board and gave them to several Hawaiian chiefs in 1792. Eventually, the sweet orange was grown in wide areas of the Hawaiian Islands, but its cultivation stopped after the arrival of the Mediterranean fruit fly in the early 1900s.

As oranges are rich in vitamin C, during the Age of Discovery, Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch sailors planted citrus trees along trade routes to prevent scurvy. Around 1872, Florida obtained seeds from New Orleans, so many orange groves were established by grafting the sweet orange on to sour orange rootstocks.

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By Figiu (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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